What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in English Language Learning Program?

Most institutions design their online master’s programs for teachers and administrators who are interested in strengthening or obtaining teaching skills in English as a Second Language (ESL) or English Language Learning (ELL) programs.

You can receive the same quality education from an online master’s program as you would from traditional in-person instruction. Online master’s programs in English language learning also provide a more convenient format for busy working professionals.

When researching online master’s programs in English language learning, it’s important to find one that coincides with your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in English Language Learning

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
ESL/EFL Education This concentration is typically appropriate for individuals with little to no teaching experience and who may be interested in teaching English in a country other than the U.S. English teacher in a country where English is not the primary spoken language, ESL teacher for adults
K-12 ELL Education Focuses on developing skills related to teaching ELL/ESL learners. It’s typically ideal for currently licensed teachers who can learn new techniques. ELL teacher, ESL teacher

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in English Language Learning

While individual courses vary by your chosen area of emphasis and individual program, you can expect to take some variation of these common courses.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Language Production, Theory and Acquistion Examines how human beings use, understand and interpret language. It usually takes a scientific look at ESL/ELL students and how they work to relate their own native language to English.
Planning, Managing and Implementing Instruction Explore the keys to developing an effective ESL/ELL curriculum. Coursework usually focuses on helping learners better understand the thought process of ESL students and the best way to tailor classroom work to meet their specific needs.
Assessment Theory and Practice Focuses on standardized testing — mainly their structure and strategies for ESL students approaching English-based assignments. In this course, ESL teachers learn effective assessment strategies that help contribute to positive learning outcomes.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in English Language Learning?

Online master’s programs in English language learning vary widely according to a number of factors, including individual program curricula and graduation requirements. Institutions develop their curriculum based on credit hours, prerequisites, core courses and electives. If you’re able to transfer some credits over from another institution, that can help speed up the degree completion process, but transfer policies vary by school.

On average, a full-time student can complete an online master’s in English language learning in two years. If you’re attending on a less than full-time basis, it could take as long as three years to complete.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in English Language Learning Prepares For

Certification and licensing for ELL teaching varies widely by state. Many master’s programs in English language learning have licensure built in, so it’s earned at the same time as the degree. If you already have an existing teaching license, ELL certification may be an additional credential that gets added on to your license. Again, requirements and processes vary by state, so be sure to check with the state you plan to teach in to find out what those specifics are. That said, here are two of the most common licenses:

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) This certification is for ESL instructors working in non-English-speaking countries, such as China. It prepares teachers to instruct non-English-speaking students and teach English as a foreign language.
Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL) This certification is for instructors teaching English in a native English-speaking country to students whose first language is not English. This credential provides teachers with the skills and knowledge they need to teach non-English-speaking students and improve their conversational and overall language skills.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in English Language Learning

Accreditation is important because it essentially validates the legitimacy of your degree. Employers also look favorably on candidates who have completed their master’s degree in English language learning at accredited institutions. Regional and national accreditation is available, and it can be given on a program basis or for the entire institution.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the primary accreditation agency for secondary schools. It works closely with the Department of Education to monitor school programs and propose improvements within the accreditation process. You can search for accredited schools and master’s programs yourself by subject area or school on CHEA’s website.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Library Science Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Graduates of online master’s degree programs in English language learning typically pursue careers in either public or private schools. They may work on overall curriculum development for an entire school or district or may focus on course instruction for ELL students.

While a bachelor’s degree may be useful for acquiring entry-level positions, such as an assistant, a master’s degree is preferred by most school districts, public and private, and is often the minimum educational requirement for most teaching positions.

Expected Salary

Below are some common careers one can obtain with a master’s degree in English language learning and the median annual salary for each.

Source: PayScale.com

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that approximately 60,670 ESL teachers are employed across the United States — however, this number includes those who teach or instruct youths and adults in remedial education classes, literacy or English as a Second Language. The majority of them, 24,860, are employed at elementary and secondary schools, and their annual mean wage is $62,630 in this setting.

Geographical location also makes a difference when it comes to salary, in addition to degree level and place of employment. Below are some of the highest-paying states for literacy and ESL teachers. All of these annual salaries fall within the range of $53,340-$72,090. New York and California pay some of the highest salaries nationwide.

Adult Basic and Secondary Education and Literacy Teachers and Instructors Mean Wages by State
Figures in US Dollars per year

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blank states indicate information was not available.

Career Opportunities

Completing a master’s degree in English language learning opens up a variety of career opportunities — some individuals take jobs as school administrators, principals, teachers, counselors or instructional coordinators. Sometimes graduates may also work as translators or interpreters for a variety of private companies.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Instructional Coordinators Instructional Coordinators use their online master’s in English language learning to develop curriculum that engages and educates ELL students. ELL Instructional Coordinators may work closely with ESL teachers to identify key learning objectives and outcomes. They also may assist with coordinating standardized testing accommodations. $63,750 per year 11%
ESL Teacher ESL Teachers have daily interactions with students to prepare them for the workforce or their next level of schooling. They may work in K-12 environments or with adults. They teach core subjects, such as math, reading, science and history, and they work directly with students to help them develop stronger language skills, both written and oral. ESL Teachers are typically multilingual and communicate with students both in English and in their students’ native language. $56,800 per year N/A
Interpreter/Translator These language professionals can work in the public or private sector for a translating service or with individual companies. They convert information from one language into another language. Interpreters work primarily with oral or sign language, while translators work with written language. Both Interpreters and translators may work in schools, hospitals, courtrooms, meeting rooms and conference centers. $47,190 per year 18%

Professional Organizations

In the field of English language learning, professional organizations provide a tremendous amount of support and resources for ESL educators. Some organizations focus on bilingual and multilingual education and issues associated with them, and members of these organizations benefit from opportunities to network with other ESL educators across the country.

TESOL International Association: This organization provides a host of knowledge and resources to ESL/ELL teachers. For its members, it provides career development options, certification programs, conferences and online courses.

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages: Membership to this organization includes over 12,000 ESL/ELL teachers and administrators. Working on a national level, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages advocates linguistic diversity and educational outreach.

National Association for Bilingual Education: NABE acts as a support system for ESL/ELL teachers. It helps improve educational material for bilingual students and advocates for student rights.

Financing Your Online Master’s in English Language Learning

While online master’s degrees are often less expensive overall compared to traditional on-campus classes, many students still need financial aid to help them pay for their education. Many resources are available through the federal government, nonprofit organizations and private companies.

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a good first step to access information about grants, loans and scholarships available through the U.S. government. Also be sure to investigate individual schools and programs you’re interested in to find out about any scholarships or grants they may offer.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Inspire Our Future Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: April

Eligibility: Any graduate or undergraduate student pursuing a degree in education or an education-related field with a minimum 3.5 GPA.

TEACH Grant

Award: $4,000

Deadline: October

Eligibility: Recipients of the TEACH Grant award can receive up to $4000 annually to fund their master’s degree if they commit to teaching for four years at a low-income school upon graduation.